Spokane County marriage certificate of Gordon Hirabayashi and Esther Schmoe who married July 29, 1944, Marriage Records, Spokane County Auditor, Marriage Records, 1880-2013, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives, http://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov.
“Japanese-American and White Girl Wed” proclaimed the newspapers after receiving word that activist Gordon Hirabayashi married his college sweetheart, Esther Schmoe, in a small Quaker ceremony on July 29, 1944. This wasn’t Hirabayashi’s first time in the news, nor would it be his last.
When America and Japan went to war in December of 1941, Japanese-Americans found themselves subject to special restrictions, including curfews and even forced relocation to internment camps. Some resisted. In 1943, Hirabayashi, an American citizen born in Seattle, intentionally broke curfew and refused to register for relocation to an internment camp, hoping to become a Supreme Court test case. Awaiting the outcome of his case, Hirabayashi moved to Spokane, taking up work with the Quaker-run American Friends Service Committee.
Page 1 of Frontier Justice Divorce Case Cox v. Cox, WAL-719, Frontier Justice, Walla Walla Frontier Justice, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives, http://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov.
Life in Washington Territory could be rough. As Americans moved west, they brought with them problems that only the legal system could settle. The court cases that pertain to these territorial legal matters are indexed in our Frontier Justice Collection at the Digital Archives.
Marriage on the frontier could be as tumultuous as anything you see on reality television today. In the case of Catherine and William Cox, an affair caused their break-up. According to the court records, Catherine Cox was an “affectionate and obedient wife and did what was in her power to promote his happiness and interests.” When she discovered her husband was having an affair with an Indian woman, she tried her best to be a dutiful wife.